Taking in our reptiles

Taking in our reptiles

Posted 4th Apr 2018

Britain's reptiles can be found across the country, from the far north of Scotland to the south coast of England, from highland moors to lowland heaths, sand dunes to garden ponds

Our most famous, or perhaps that should be infamous, reptile is the adder, our only venomous snake. Adders are significantly smaller than many people realise, rarely reaching more than 50cm long. They can be found in moorlands, heaths and rough grassland where they will be seen sunbathing in groups early in the year as they emerge from their hibernacula. During the spring, males engage in the famous 'dance of the adders', as they raise up and twine around each other, ritually wrestling in the hope of winning the favours of a female.

You're far more likely to spot a grass snake - these are our largest reptiles, sometimes reaching a metre in length. found in wetland habitats, they are great swimmers and have a particular penchant for garden ponds.

Our three lizards include the common lizard, our most widespread reptile and the only one that is native to Ireland; the beautiful slow worm, a legless lizard who spends most of his time underground feeding on slugs and worms; and lastly, the brightly coloured sand lizard, something of a rarity, only found on southern heaths and sand dunes on the Merseyside coast. Another southern rarity is the shy smooth snake, which is now restricted to the heathlands of the New Forest, Dorset and Surrey.

How to do it

Our reptiles are sun-worshippers. Find a south-facing slope, with patches of bare ground that will warm up quickly next to areas of cover into which the animal can flee if they're disturbed - you then have the ideal reptile spotting location. Your first sighting is likely to be a quick glimpse as a tail disappeared underground. However, don't despair - individual snakes and lizards will normally have their preferred sun-bathing spots, so if you sit still and wait, they may well soon reappear.

If you can't get to the locations listed below...

Make your garden reptile-friendly. Wildlife ponds will attract frogs, which will in turn provide food for grass snakes, while compost heaps and log piles can be great spots for both grass snakes and slow worms.

Higher Hyde Heath in Dorset is home to all six native land reptiles, as well as Dartford warbler, nightjar and silver-studded blue, all making their homes on an internationally important heathland site. 

Berkshire, Greenham and Crookham Commons

Berkshire, Widmoor Heath

Berkshire, Snelsmore Common 

Cambridgeshire, Fulbourn Fen 

Cornwall, Upton Towans 

Cornwall, Chun Downs 

Devon, Bovey Heathfield

Devon, Stapleton Mire

Devon, Rackenford and Knowstone Moor 

Dorset, Tadnoll and Winfrith

Essex, Two Tree Island

Essex, Stanford Warren 

Glamorgan, Parc Slip

Kent, Sandwich and Pegwell Bay 

Kent, Reculver and Country Park 

Lancashire, Freshfield Dune Heath

Norfolk, Roydon Common and Grimston Warren

Northumberland, Holystone Burn

Northumberland, Annstead Dunes

Northumberland, Whitelee Moor 

Northumberland, Fords Moss 

Northumberland, Harbottle Crags

Powys, Abercamlo Bog

Suffolk, Blaxhall Common

Suffolk, Dunwich Forest

Suffolk, Sutton and Hollesley Commons

Surrey, Oakham and Wisley Commons

Surrey, Chobham Common

Surrey, Rodborough Common 

Yorkshire, Potteric Carr

Yorkshire, Allerthorpe Common

Yorkshire, Strensall Common

Yorkshire, Fen Bog

Information and text courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts / image courtesy of © Jamie Hall

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